Drinking in pubs can be educational – if you’re willing to learn. The good thing about going to sleep and waking up again is you get to start again. So when Brian of lordbeariofbow fame started rabbiting on about all his work running pubs all over Australia I thought about some incidents of interest to no body but myself. And being a narcissist – or so my ex-admirers would have it – I decided that even if it is of no interest to anyone, it is interesting to me. Each
So a number of short ditties. Each one has to do with me being in a pub and having a drink.
- I started my working life as a clerk in a solicitor’s office. One night I was with two old legal characters in the Mitre Tavern in Bank Place, Melbourne. As was the general idea we started chatting about stuff an’ nonsense. Then a fellow that the two old blokes knew turned up to join the school. (Brian will know what a school is.) I had started telling them about having to take a suitcase from an old client to the bank only to discover that it had thousands of Pounds in cash in it.I didn’t know if it was shonky or not. It never occurred to me that it may have been. So when this bloke turns up I started again. I was just getting to the good bit when Brian, one of the blokes, coughed, spluttered and accidentally spilt his beer on my trouser leg. He hurried me into the bathroom and started to clean it up. “Sorry for doing that but I didn’t want you to tell the rest of the story. That other fellow out there is from the Tax Office. Special investigator. So rule #1. Never tell stories about clients to people you don’t know. In fact never tell stories about clients to anyone.”
- A few years later and I’m working on a 20 thousand acre property on the Wakool River south of Deniliquin in the Riverina (Look it up.) On Saturday nights all the Jackaroos (Look that up as well) pile into their utes and head for the White Horse Inn for a booze up. It was my first time. I was young, I was cocky, I was stupid. I went to the bar. The barmaid asked me what I wanted. I said ‘something special. You mix it I’ll drink it. She mixed it. Then she took a small pocket knife out of her purse, opened it and scratched a mark on the edge of the bar. ‘What’s that for?’ I asked. She said that she did that every time she sold one of those drinks. Why? Because nobody ever drinks two. It was my first time. I was young, I was cocky, I was stupid. ‘Well I’ll be the first.’ I drained my glass and asked for a second one. I don’t remember waking up until late on Sunday. Apparently the barmaid was right.
- It was later. About five years later. If you walk up the Edgware Road and turn right before Praed street there is a small street with a small pub. (We’re in London) Further up the Road is a big dormitory for young coppers from the Westminster Constabulary. And there was a small group of them who drank at this particular pub and I sort of, kind of, attached myself. And there were stupid games they played – we played. Like seeing who could drain a pint glass of “Black Velvet” without stopping. (That’s stout and champagne). I won once. Another night this Irish fellow won. The Irish fellow was a fully registered member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. That night he went on leave – home to Belfast to see his Mum and Dad. He told us how, as a member of the R.U.C. his first task when he arrived at the airport was to go to a special office where he would be issued with a revolver. He didn’t come in for a drink when I went in to the pub on the Monday. In 1973 seventeen members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary were killed. I’ve never drunk a Black Velvet since then.
- Three months later off we go to Cork. Republic of Ireland. It was as scary as all get out. The family is up stairs in bed and I go down to have a taste of Guinness. I thought it would be easy. I walked into the bar. It wasn’t easy. Everyone was down the other end. They all looked at me and it was obvious I wasn’t invited to go down and join them. There was a lot of mumbling and looking up at my end. The barman came down. “Would y’ be English then?” I said no I wasn’t and he went back and reported. He came back. “Are you from up North?” No. He went back and the mumbling carried on. He came back. “So you’d be from America.” No I wasn’t from America. He went back. I was getting sick of this but it wasn’t long since I’d been drinking Black Velvet with another Irishman. More mumbling. The barman came back and before he had a chance to say anything I said, “I’m a bloody Australian and as soon as I’ve finished this beer I leave you all and get out of your hair.” He went back and told them and he came back and said, the next one is on them. They all looked at me and nodded. I drank the next one. But I didn’t go down the bar and drink it with them. They didn’t seem too welcoming. They called those times in Ireland “The Troubles.” You’d wonder who was to blame. I’ve no idea.
I’ve got more but that’ll do for now.